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What Do You Know About the Bible?
Did you know the King James Version of the Bible contains 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,102 verses, and 788,258 words? The longest book is Psalms, with 150 chapters and 42,704 words. The shortest book is 2 John, with 1 chapter and only 294 words.
The Bible is not simply “a book”. It is a miraculously-preserved LIBRARY, bursting with stories, facts, and instructions. It covers virtually every topic imaginable: history, geography, cosmology, the origin of languages, the origin of nations, medicine, agriculture, relationships, law, life, health, death, resurrection, and eternity. One could spend every waking hour studying the Bible and still not understand it all.
So what is it all about?
Despite the immense span of time and topics it addresses, there is simplicity to the Bible that’s easy to forget. Paul feared that some might forget it (2 Corinthians 11:3). It is simply this: the Bible—God’s Word—is about a Way of life. It is about THE Way of life. The one and only Way (John 14:6) that leads to health, happiness, peace, joy, and, of course, to everlasting life (2 Timothy 3:15).
What does the Bible say God requires of us? It’s simple. He requires that we live a certain Way of life (Deuteronomy 10:12-13; Micah 6:8).
Why were the stories, sorrows, and successes of ancient people recorded in the Bible? It’s simple. They were recorded as examples, to teach us the right Way to live, and warn us about the consequences of living the wrong way (Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11).
Christ said many things in the Old and New Testament (see our booklet, “Jesus Christ–A Great Mystery!”). When asked what was the greatest commandment in ALL the Law, what did Christ say? He said there are two:
First, in Matthew 22:37, “…YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.”
Second, in Matthew 22:39, “…YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.”
Twenty seven simple words, in English. Words on which Christ said “…hang all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:40).
When all the prophesies of the Bible have been fulfilled, and other physical things have ceased, what will remain? Paul tells us that God’s Way of humble, patient, kind love will remain, and will never, ever cease (1 Corinthians 13:4-10).
What will also remain, if we are counted worthy, will be the godly character God is building in us. Character forged through a lifetime of living His Way of give, instead of get. A life of heartfelt service to (John 13:14-15), and sacrifice for others (1 John 3:16-18; Romans 12:1), even for our enemies (Luke 6:27-36). That’s the Way Christ lived (Matthew 20:28; Romans 5:8). It’s how we must live, also (1 John 2:6, 28-29). There is no other Way to eternal life. It’s that simple.
So what is the most fundamental and important message of the Bible–the conclusion of the matter–as Solomon said (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)? It is simply this: God is calling us to the Way of life. He tells us that we MUST constantly grow in this Way. A simple, beautiful, pure, perfect Way OF life, and TO eternal life.
That’s what the Bible is about. It is speaking to US. And it is saying, “THIS is the Way, walk in it” (Isaiah 30:21).
We begin with reporting on developments in Syria and the apparent determination of some Western nations to intervene militarily; point out how Germany is being pressured to lead more forcefully in world affairs; describe the many challenges and dangers which Israel is facing from other nations, including Egypt, Syria, Iran and Turkey; speak on the demise of Christians in the Middle East; address precautionary measures of some Christian churches in light of the US Supreme Court’s re-definition of marriage; and conclude with reporting on the devastating fires in California.
This Week in the News
Will America Attack Syria?
The Independent wrote on August 25:
“Options for a military strike [against Syria] drawn up by the Pentagon are already on President Barack Obama’s desk. However as he contemplated them last night – most likely a strike by cruise missiles launched from the Mediterranean – he was on the receiving end of strong warnings to desist from both Moscow and some leaders of his own party at home…
“President Obama just a few days ago made clear his preference for winning support for any military intervention from the UN Security Council first. That, however, would assume the backing of both Russia and China, which each have veto power. Hardly encouraging therefore was a statement issued by the Russian foreign ministry that sought to remind the US of events 10 years ago when it began its invasion of Iraq without a UN resolution…
“The dilemma is vivid for Mr Obama who has made no secret of his own misgivings about involving the US directly in the conflict… Polls show that most Americans [are] strongly opposed to US intervention. Harry Reed, leader of the Democrat majority in the Senate, publicly fretted about being sucked into a longer commitment in Syria…”
“We are Going to War”
Fox News added on August 26:
“Steve Hayes, a columnist for The Weekly Standard and Fox News contributor, told viewers Monday… that ‘we’re going to war’ with Syria, adding that it is only a matter of when and what type of strike will be launched against the country…
“Hayes’ comments came after Secretary of State John Kerry earlier Monday told reporters at the State Department there was undeniable evidence of a large-scale chemical weapons attack in Syria and called the killing of civilians a ‘moral obscenity’ that must carry consequences. Hayes called Kerry’s remarks a dramatic shift in rhetoric by the Obama administration despite the fact that intelligence has previously been available tying the Assad regime to chemical weapons use.”
America’s Credibility at Stake
Deutsche Welle wrote on August 26:
“European editorial writers ponder the international community’s options for action – and agree the US faces a dilemma… Germany’s Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung… warned that Obama faces the question of ‘what his word is worth if he threatens consequences but does not act. The President’s credibility and the role of the United States as a global political regulatory force are at stake.’…
“Obama faces difficult decisions, Holland’s de Volkskrant agrees. ‘If Assad gets away with this, anyone can, and US threats of reprisal are empty – with all manner of consequences for the proliferation weapons of mass destruction,’ the paper said. It concluded: ‘The logic of deterrent forces Obama to act.’…
“Vienna’s Der Standard also agreed that Obama must find a way to put the Assad regime in its place and ‘confirm US credibility without leading the country into a conflict where neither a victory nor peace are possible.’ However, the Austrian paper says, ‘no one knows the magic formula.’…”
US, Britain and France Ready for War?
Deutsche Welle reported on August 26:
“The US, along with its allies Britain and France, is apparently gearing up for yet another military intervention in the Middle East. But the consequences of even the most minor attack in Syria are very unclear…
“The US, along with its allies Britain and France, already has plenty of military hardware within striking distance of Syria. The US has three destroyers in the eastern Mediterranean, which it has now bolstered with a fourth, while Britain is also thought to have four warships nearby. The US, Britain, and France, also have fighter jets within range of Damascus – based in the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Cyprus.”
Great Britain has declared its support and participation in an American military attack against Syria, and France has called for military intervention as well. Germany wants to be cautious, as the next article shows. In fact, the majority of Germans (58%) is opposing any military actions against Damascus, while only 33% would support it (The Local, August 29, 2013).
Germany Asserting Itself
Der Spiegel Online wrote on August 23:
“Germany started deviating from French leadership in March 2011, when its diplomats ruled out participation in Libya regardless of UN Security Council resolutions. The following year, Germans long refused the French assessment that the occupation of northern Mali by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) presented a threat against Western interests. France has continued to raise international pressure on the Assad regime over German objections…
“But something different is at work here. Contrary to appearances, Germany is not simply receding ever deeper into itself. In fact, the Berlin Republic is quietly asserting itself and fleshing out its foreign policy. The unwillingness to act as France’s cheerleader in the greater Mediterranean comes with the creeping recovery of self-confidence, and a desire to reposition itself vis-à-vis this historically French sphere of influence…
“German obstructionism also reveals the consensus across the German political spectrum that an Islamist regime in Syria is to be avoided… The deputy leader of Merkel’s Christian Democrats has said orthodox Christian populations risk ethnic cleansing or worse if the French-allied Islamists come to power… In addition to the 50 years of the Elysée Treaty, this October also marks the 200th anniversary of the war liberating Prussia from Napoleonic occupation.”
Washington Expects More Leadership from Germany on Global Matters
Der Spiegel Online wrote on August 23:
“Angela Merkel’s conservatives are well ahead in the polls and the chancellor herself likewise remains extremely popular… Washington is hoping that, once the campaign is history, Germany will take on a greater global leadership role on issues like trade, the euro crisis and international security…
“Conley, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, says there is some ‘uncertainty’ in Washington about how strong a partner Germany is on military and security issues in the Middle East. She says she would like to see the new government ‘articulate its foreign and national security views and strategies’ following the election.”
How Will Germany Lead?
The Economist wrote on August 22:
“One month from now, on September 22nd, Germans will elect a new parliament. Perhaps more than at any time since reunification in 1990, the world will watch the results with great interest. That is, first, because the current chancellor, Angela Merkel, as Germany’s first woman and first Ossi (Easterner) in the job, has become something of a global celebrity and is now fighting to stay in power…
“The second reason why the world, and you, will care about this election is that Germany has become so important. The euro crisis has now been going on for three years. Currently, it seems to be stable, but it could return with fury at any time. This has led to an old question being asked anew. This ‘German question’ has changed over the centuries—whether the Holy Roman Empire would centralise or stay fragmented, whether and how Germany in the 19th century would unify, et cetera. But always it was about how this central land (‘too big for Europe, too small for the world,’ as Henry Kissinger once put it) would relate to its neighbours and continent. Today, with demands for Germany to play a new and unfamiliar role as ‘hegemon’ over the euro system, that question is suddenly relevant again.”
The Reluctant Giant—“Germany Has No Other Choice but to Lead”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on August 29:
“The world admires Germany and would like to see more active engagement from the country… The rest of the world is waiting for Germany. But instead of feeling pleased about Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski’s historic statement that he fears Germany’s power less than its inactivity, we cringe anxiously over such sentiments. When US President Barack Obama calls Germany a leading global power, we hope that he doesn’t really mean it. And when politicians in Israel say that Germany should wield its power more actively, we don’t interpret it as a mandate to become more committed, but are puzzled instead.
“We Germans? Exercise power? Take action? Lead?… [But] ‘history’ has given us reformed Germans in the 21st century the mandate to play an influential role in all of the world’s affairs… Who, if not we Germans, is as well versed in emerging from the swamp of overthrown dictators? Who, if not we Germans, could advise war-torn countries on how to find their way back to peace? Who, if not Germany, whose path to liberal democracy was long and rocky, could help other countries along this path? And who, if not we Germans, would be destined to warn the Americans, for example, that absolute national security doesn’t protect freedom but instead destroys it? Seen in the cold light of day, we have no other choice…
“For a country as important as Germany, getting involved is a duty, not a choice. The role of being an active player falls on us, whether we want it or not…
“We… want to dream again, of a better Germany in a better world. Germany is being administered, not governed. It could be a soft giant, but when it looks in the mirror, it still sees itself as a gray mouse. But that’s just an optical illusion.”
Syria and Iran Threaten Israel
The Times of Israel wrote on August 26:
“A senior Syrian official on Monday issued a first direct warning that if attacked, his country would retaliate against Israel. Khalaf Muftah, a senior Baath Party official who used to serve as Syria’s assistant information minister, said in a radio interview that Damascus would consider Israel ‘behind the [Western] aggression and [it] will therefore come under fire… If the US or Israel make the mistake of taking advantage of the chemical issue… the region will go up in flames… that will affect security not only in the region but across the world.’
“His words were echoed by Iranian officials, who on Monday shrugged off the threat of a US attack on its close ally Syria, but said that if such a strike were to take place, Israel would suffer…
“The Syrian and Iranian statements Monday came as Britain reportedly pushed for US action on Syria in the wake of a horrific alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians outside Damascus. According to a report from the Times of London, British Prime Minister David Cameron wants a strike in the coming days while outrage over the alleged attack is still fresh. British Foreign Minister William Hague said in an interview with the BBC on Monday that action could be taken even without the full support of the UN Security Council.”
Russia Warns the USA
USA Today wrote on August 26:
“Russia warned again Tuesday that any military intervention in Syria would have ‘catastrophic consequences’ for the region… Russia has vowed to veto any Security Council attempts to approve a military attack on Syria, and it is arming Syria as well, which is why the United States is considering a unilateral attack with the help of the United Kingdom and other nations… The Russians have already promised to send Syria S-300 long-range anti-aircraft missiles that have a range of almost 100 miles and would reach deep inside Israel…
“The Russians could also send Assad their supersonic P800 long-range anti-ship missile, which is capable of sinking NATO ships with a single strike… The Russians could expand sales to Iran of weapons and nuclear technology that has both nuclear and civilian functions…”
Arab League Rejects Attack Against Syria
The New York Times wrote on August 27:
“The leaders of the Arab world on Tuesday blamed the Syrian government for a chemical weapons attack that killed hundreds of people last week, but declined to back a retaliatory military strike, leaving President Obama without the broad regional support he had for his last military intervention in the Middle East, in Libya in 2011.
“While the Obama administration has robust European backing and more muted Arab support for a strike on Syria, the position of the Arab League and the unlikelihood of securing authorization from the United Nations Security Council complicate the legal and diplomatic case for the White House.”
Jordan—No Attack on Syria From Our Soil
The Associated Press reported on August 28:
“Jordan will not be used as a launching pad for attacks on Syria and the kingdom favors a diplomatic solution to the crisis… A U.S.-led strike on Syria in response to the alleged use of chemical weapons by President Bashar Assad’s regime likely would involve cruise missile attacks from the sea, which would not need to cross or make use of Jordanian territory… Hundreds of thousands of refugees have fled into Jordan from Syria.”
Further Setback for USA
The Los Angeles Times wrote on August 28:
“The Obama administration’s move to punish Syria’s government for allegedly using chemical weapons in a deadly attack last week appeared to suffer a setback Wednesday when the U.S. failed to get United Nations approval for use of force [over Russia’s objection] and British support was thrown into question. The collapse of diplomatic efforts aimed at securing a U.N. Security Council resolution condemning Syria was expected. The British impediment was not…
“How soon such strikes might occur remained unclear after British Prime Minister David Cameron, who has repeatedly called for strong action on Syria, was unable to muster enough support from lawmakers to push ahead with a vote to approve military intervention. Members of Parliament from both his Conservative Party and the opposition Labor Party insisted that a vote be delayed until U.N. chemical experts now in Syria issue a report…”
Will US, Britain and France Fight with Al-Qa’ida Against Assad?
The Independent wrote on August 27:
“If Barack Obama decides to attack the Syrian regime, he has ensured – for the very first time in history – that the United States will be on the same side as al-Qa’ida… The men who destroyed so many thousands on 9/11 will then be fighting alongside the very nation whose innocents they so cruelly murdered almost exactly 12 years ago. Quite an achievement for Obama, Cameron, Hollande and the rest of the miniature warlords.
“This, of course, will not be trumpeted by the Pentagon or the White House – nor, I suppose, by al-Qa’ida… While the Americans drone al-Qa’ida to death in Yemen and Pakistan – along, of course, with the usual flock of civilians – they will be giving them, with the help of Messrs Cameron, Hollande and the other Little General-politicians, material assistance in Syria by hitting al-Qa’ida’s enemies. Indeed, you can bet your bottom dollar that the one target the Americans will not strike in Syria will be al-Qa’ida or the Nusra front.
“And our own Prime Minister will applaud whatever the Americans do, thus allying himself with al-Qa’ida, whose London bombings may have slipped his mind…”
Britain may not fight at all, and Mr. Hollande has also begun to back-paddle. The BBC reported on August 29, 2013:
“British MPs have voted to reject possible military action against the Assad regime in Syria to deter the use of chemical weapons. A government motion was defeated by 285 to 272, a majority of 13 votes. Prime Minster David Cameron said it was clear Parliament does not want action and ‘the government will act accordingly’. It effectively rules out British involvement in any US-led strikes against the Assad regime.”
Turkey Against Israel
IB Times wrote on August 25:
“As a NATO member, Turkey is seen by the U.S. as a strategic ally to the West and a crucial liaison to the Arab and Muslim world… Sometimes, though, statements by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoðan and officials of his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) call into question the notion that the West and Turkey have ‘common hopes and … common dreams.”
“Here is a sample of some of the more provocative statements that have come out of Ankara recently…
“‘There are some circles that are jealous of Turkey’s growth … They are all uniting, and on one side is the Jewish Diaspora…’ Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Besir Atalay, July 2, 2013. Invoking the spectre of Jewish domination of the global media may be unseemly in the West, but it’s standard fare among Turkish leaders.
“‘Israel cannot do whatever it wants in the eastern Mediterranean. They will see what our decisions will be on this subject. Our navy attack ships can be there at any moment.’ — Recep Tayyip Erdoðan September 15, 2011. Erdoðan was responding to the recent discovery of an offshore natural gas find in the Eastern Mediterranean that Israel discovered and is working on in cooperation with Cyprus and Greece, two nations that also happen to have problems with Turkey.
“‘The press wants to throw mud to see if it sticks. The Times is renting out its own pages for money. This is the Times’ failing. We will pursue legal channels regarding the Times.’ — Recep Tayyip Erdoðan, August 22, 2013. Erdoðan was threatening the prestigious British newspaper The London Times for publishing an open letter criticizing the Turkish government for excessive use of force against protesters. Erdoðan said, ‘If they truly believed in democracy, they couldn’t have displayed such a lack of character to call the leader of a party that won 50 percent of the vote a dictator.’ Erdoðan’s distinctly non-Western view of journalism and press freedoms was further illustrated when he jailed 64 journalists.”
The Bible shows that Turkey—modern Edom—will turn against Israel… the Jewish state as well as countries like the USA and Great Britain.
Israel Attacks Lebanon
The Associated Press reported on August 23:
“Israeli warplanes struck a target south of Beirut early Friday, a day after militants fired four rockets into northern Israel… It was the first air raid on the area since the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon’s militant Hezbollah group…
“On Thursday, militants in Lebanon fired four rockets into Israel, setting off air raid sirens and startling a nation already on edge over turmoil along its northern and southern borders… the rockets added to the nation’s fears at a time it is nervously watching unrest in neighboring Syria, where the government has been accused of using chemical weapons against rebels and civilians this week. It’s also worried about Egypt to the south, where Islamic militants have stepped up their activities near the Israeli border in the wake of a military coup…
“Israel fears that Syria will transfer sophisticated weapons to Hezbollah and has carried out several airstrikes in Syria in recent months on suspected Iranian weapons shipments believed to be bound for the militant group… Netanyahu… also accused Iran, the key backer of Syria and Hezbollah, of using… Syria as a ‘testing ground’… ‘Iran is closely watching whether and how the world responds to the atrocities committed by Iran’s client state Syria and by Iran’s proxy Hezbollah against innocent civilians in Syria,’ he said. ‘These events prove yet again that we simply cannot allow the world’s most dangerous regimes to acquire the world’s most dangerous weapons.’”
Israel is indeed surrounded by enemies… Syria, Iran, Egypt, Turkey, etc.
Less and Less Christians in the Middle East
CNN wrote on August 22:
“Islamist thugs have attacked dozens of churches across Egypt in the past few days, burning many of them down… Today there are more than 10 million Christians in the Middle East and they make up an estimated 5% of the Middle East’s population. A century ago they made up an estimated 20%…
“Take Syria. Many Syrian Christians have tacitly supported the regime of President Bashar al-Assad… As a result, the jihadists who have come to dominate a significant portion of the Syrian rebel movement have supplemented their war against the government with attacks that target Christians…
“Meanwhile, in March in Benghazi, Libya, where a militant attack on a U.S. government complex left four Americans dead in September 2012, around 60 Christians were rounded up by extremists and handed over to the government on suspicion of immigrating from Egypt illegally. The militants tortured several of their captives, killing one of them. That bout of vigilantism followed the arrest in February of four Christians accused of proselytizing to Muslim Libyans. The consequence of such attacks and harassment has been an exodus of Christians from the region…
“This kind of homogenization has happened before in the Middle East, which boasted a sizable Jewish population in the ’50s. But with the creation of the state of Israel and the rise of Arab nationalism and then Islamism, the region has become more hostile to non-Muslims. Around World War II there were 100,000 Jews in Egypt, a community that had existed in Egypt since the time of the pharaohs. Now, there are a handful of synagogues operating in Cairo…”
Church Bylaws on Marriage
The Associated Press reported on August 24:
“Worried they could be sued by gay couples, some churches are changing their bylaws to reflect their view that the Bible allows only marriage between one man and one woman… ‘I thought marriage was always between one man and one woman, but the Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision said no,’ said Gregory S. Erwin, an attorney for the Louisiana Baptist Convention…
“Kevin Snider is an attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute… [He] said some religious leaders have been threatened with lawsuits for declining to perform same-sex wedding ceremonies.
“Dean Inserra, head pastor of the 1,000-member City Church Tallahassee, based in Florida,… said he already has had to say no to gay friends who wanted him to perform a wedding ceremony. ‘We have some gay couples that attend our church. What happens when they ask us to do their wedding?’ Inserra said. ‘What happens when we say no? Is it going to be treated like a civil rights thing?’…
“Some Christian denominations, such as the United Church of Christ and the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, accept gay marriage. The Episcopal Church recently approved a blessing for same-sex couples, but each bishop must decide whether to allow the ceremony in his or her local diocese. The majority of Christian denominations, however, view homosexual relationships as sinful…”
For the doctrine and teaching of the Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates in matters of marriage and homosexuality, and that marriages which are officiated by ministers of the church are strictly between a “believing” man and a “believing” woman, see our booklet on “Keys to Happy Marriages and Families,” as well as our numerous Q&As, including http://www.eternalgod.org/qapdf/3683 ; http://www.eternalgod.org/qapdf/13060 and http://www.eternalgod.org/qapdf/771.
Another Ridiculous Court Decision
The Los Angeles Times wrote on August 29:
“A federal appeals court Thursday upheld a state law that prohibits licensed mental health therapists from trying to change the sexual orientation of minors. The unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel said the never-enforced law does not violate the free speech rights of patients or professionals, or the fundamental rights of parents. The state has the right to prohibit treatment it deems harmful, the court said…
“The California law… subjects licensed professionals to discipline if they try to change a minor’s sexual orientation. California was the first state to ban the therapy, and New Jersey followed this year. ‘The 1st Amendment does not prevent a state from regulating treatment even when that treatment is performed through speech alone,’ the panel concluded.”
The Dark Alliance Between Homosexuals and Pedophiles
Der Spiegel Online wrote on August 29:
“In the 1980s, gay rights groups in Germany formed an alliance with pedophiles who advocated the legalization of sex with minors. It’s a dark period few care to talk about now.
“In July 1981, the gay interest magazine ‘Rosa Flieder’ published an interview with Olaf Stüben. Stüben was one of the most infamous pedophiles in Germany at the time. As a writer for the leftist newspaper Die Tageszeitung, he openly advocated for people to accept pedophilia as healthy and moral… in the 1970s and 80s, numerous gay-oriented magazines brazenly promoted sex with children…
“Anyone who searches through archives can find ample evidence of the alliance between gay rights organizations and pedophile activists. If pedophiles got into trouble with the law, they could rely on legal advice from a group called ‘Gay Lawyers’… there was the remarkable idea that underage boys should not be denied the chance to have sexual experiences with grown men… The gay movement helped pedophiles in entirely practical ways..
“Beginning in the mid-1980s, the gay movement in Germany began to distance itself from pedophiles… The gay rights movement also began to notice how much damage the alliance with pedophiles was causing…”
Rim Fire Reaches California’s Yosemite National Park
BBC wrote on August 26:
“A huge fire in and around California’s Yosemite National Park has continued to spread and now covers almost 230 sq miles (600 sq km), officials say. The Rim Fire is now raining ash on a key reservoir that supplies water and hydro-electric power to San Francisco… The blaze is also threatening thousands of homes and some of California’s renowned giant sequoia trees.
“On Monday officials said the fire was 15% contained after burning for more than a week – up from 2% containment on Friday. Strong winds are making the fires more difficult to control. ‘This fire has continued to pose every challenge that there can be on a fire,’ said Daniel Berlant of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection… The blaze began on 17 August in the Stanislaus National Forest but the cause is still unknown…
“Ash is said to be falling like snow on the Hetch Hetchy reservoir, which supplies San Francisco with 85% of its water… Two of three hydroelectric power stations serving the city were shut down, forcing the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission to spend $600,000 (£385,000) buying power on the open market…
“The Rim Fire is one of 50 major wildfires burning in the western US. Lack of rain and snow have made it a bad year, with 5,700 fires being tackled so far. The Beaver Creek fire in Idaho has destroyed some 45,000 hectares near the ski resort of Sun Valley…”
By Wednesday night, August 28, the flames had scorched over 300 square miles, making it the 6th largest fire in state history. Officials said Wednesday evening that the fire was 30 percent contained.
Does God hear everyone’s prayers?
The astounding truth of the Bible is that generally, He does not hear, nor does He answer the prayers of just anyone. In fact, at this time and throughout human history, only a small proportion of people have had the kind of relationship with God in which their prayers would be heard by Him!
In the very beginning messages of Jesus Christ, He taught about praying, and throughout His ministry, He continued to teach His own disciples how to pray. His example gives us an important key to God hearing our prayers, and what is recorded in the Book of Hebrews about Christ is vital for us to understand:
“who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered. And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:7-9).
Note again what is stated, that Christ “was heard because of His godly Fear”! Jesus Christ’s prayers were heard by His Father. There are specific examples of when He went before God with important and difficult decisions. One such instance is found in Luke:
“Now it came to pass in those days that He went out to the mountain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to God. And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles” (Luke 6:12-13).
Another example occurred just before His crucifixion, but in this instance Jesus asked for something that God did not grant. Jesus agonized over His impending death and even asked for a way out, but after presenting His request to the Father three successive times, He yielded to God’s Will in the matter (compare Matthew 26:36-46).
Did God hear Him? Absolutely, and the proof of this is in the outcome of what followed. God raised Jesus from the dead! (compare Acts 2:24, 32; 3:15, 26; 4:10; 5:30; 10:40; 13:30, 33, 37; Romans 7:4; 10:9; 1 Corinthians 6:14; 15:15; Galatians 1:1; Colossians 2:12; 3:1; 1 Peter 1:21).
The fact that Jesus Christ is alive has everything to do with God hearing our prayers!
Before His death and resurrection, Jesus gave very detailed instructions to His disciples about how to have God hear their prayers:
“‘Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father. And whatever you ask in My name, that I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything in My name, I will do it’” (John 14:12-14).
Jesus continued to explain exactly what He meant about praying and asking in His name:
“‘And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you. Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full… In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you; for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God’” (John 16:23-24, 26-27; compare John 15:16).
Jesus Christ is our great High Priest—seated at the right hand of God the Father (Romans 8:34; Ephesians 1:20; Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 8:1). His is an ongoing role:
“Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25).
God hears the prayers of those who have access to Him through Jesus Christ! Note, as well, that Jesus very specifically instructed His disciples to address the Father when they prayed, and He gave them an example of how this should be done (Matthew 6:9-13). In the context of this teaching, He also gave other important guidelines for prayer:
“‘And when you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. Assuredly, I say to you, they have their reward. But you, when you pray, go into your room, and when you have shut your door, pray to your Father who is in the secret place; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you openly. And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words. Therefore do not be like them. For your Father knows the things you have need of before you ask Him’” (Matthew 6:5-8).
Quite clearly, Jesus taught that not everyone praying was being heard by God! However, for those who have been called and who have established a relationship with God, prayer is the vital communication with God to obtain His guidance—His oversight in our lives!
Sometimes, even for those who are able to have their prayers heard by God, the answer is not always immediate or exactly what we seek (just as we read about the prayers of Jesus before His death). In these circumstances it is important for us to continue in faith, presenting our requests to God, as Jesus instructed:
“So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent instead of a fish? Or if he asks for an egg, will he offer him a scorpion? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!’” (Luke 11:9-13).
In another example, we find more of what Jesus taught about prayer:
“Then He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart, saying: ‘There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, “Get justice for me from my adversary.” And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, “Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me.”’ Then the Lord said, ‘Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?’” (Luke 18:1-8).
The New Testament emphatically teaches that Satan is the god of this age (2 Corinthians 4:4). The whole world has been deceived by him (Revelation 12:9), and those who are deceived may be even praying to Satan, without knowing it—not to God the Father! Jesus Christ is not serving as their High Priest, nor does God generally hear their prayers (For more information, please see our Q&A on John 9:31, as to whether or not God hears the prayers of sinners.)
God is not now trying to save this world! Rather, He has called some to be a kind of “firstfruits” of His salvation (compare James 1:18)—identified as His “elect” (compare Matthew 24:22, 24, 31). God hears the prayers of His “saints” (compare Revelation 8:3) because of what Jesus Christ accomplished in becoming our Savior.
The elect have been chosen for salvation at this time, and they have the opportunity for God to hear their prayers. They are those who seek God with a true humility to be obedient to Him. They have gained access to God:
“There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with all his household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. About the ninth hour of the day he saw clearly in a vision an angel of God coming in and saying to him, ‘Cornelius!’ And when he observed him, he was afraid, and said, ‘What is it, lord?’ So he said to him, ‘Your prayers and your alms have come up for a memorial before God’” (Acts 10:1-4).
Consider, also, that God is willing to respond to those who truly turn to Him:
“‘… But on this one will I look: On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit, And who trembles at My word’” (Isaiah 66:2).
Sadly, this does not describe the people of our age—not even the countless millions who profess to be followers of Christ! We have prepared a booklet, titled, “Teach Us To Pray,” which offers much more detail on this subject—available free upon request, or it can be accessed on our webpage in the literature section.
Lead Writer: Dave Harris
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
“The Ten European Revivals of the Ancient Roman Empire,” has now been published, and it is available online. Copies are available upon your request. Also, we will have copies for distribution at our U.S. Feast site.
A new German booklet is being printed in Germany, and this is a translation of the English booklet, titled, Human Suffering, Why…and How Much Longer? This booklet will be finished and available at our Feast site in Germany.
“Alaska in Bible Prophecy” is the title of a unique and insightful StandingWatch program presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Inspired by a recent trip to Alaska by him and his wife and Mr. and Mrs. Messier, Mr. Link discusses the biblical relevance of Alaska being included in the great national blessings given to the United States–part of the promises of God to the descendants of Abraham! Here is a summary:
Does the Bible say something about the past and future of Alaska? How, when and why did Alaska become a member of the Union? Why is Alaska so blessed with natural resources, and why has it been plagued with natural and man-made disasters? What is in store for Alaska?
“God’s Viewpoint on Transgender and Homosexual Individuals,” is the title of a new StandingWatch program presented by Evangelist Norbert Link. Here is a summary:
Bradley Manning says that he is a woman and requests hormone therapy or sex-reassignment surgery. Students in California public schools can now choose their gender. California and New Jersey prohibit gay-conversion therapy for those under age 18. Chris Christie states that homosexuality is not a sin, and that gay people are born that way. Germany is the first European country allowing parents to opt out determining their baby’s gender to allow their children to choose later in life whether to become male or female. What does the Bible say about these developments?
Global Trailer 8 is about Jesus Christ–A Great Mystery. These trailers join a growing list of presentations by Mr. Brian Gale specially targeting YouTube viewers in Great Britain.
“Neu! Erdbeben—nur ein natürliches Phänomen?,” is the title of this week’s German sermon. It covers earthquakes in the Bible. English title: “Earthquakes—Just a Natural Phenomenon?”
“The Kingdom of God,” is the title of last Sabbath’s sermon by Norbert Link. It is now posted for viewing. Here is a summary:
Why does the Bible speak of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of the Father, and the kingdom of Christ? Who and what is God? Is Christ God? Was He God before He became a Man? Who is YHWH—the God of the Old Testament? Did the Jews know the Father? What exactly is the kingdom of God? Is God a Family? How can we inherit the kingdom of God? Are converted Chritans today already a part of the kingdom and the Family of God?
On Sunday, August 25th, we conducted our monthly ministerial meeting via SKYPE.
The Member Letter for September has been written and mailed out. In this letter, Mr. Norbert Link addresses the autumn festival season, encouraging us to reflect on the purpose of our calling and the task which is still ahead of us.
As a reminder, here are the dates for the upcoming Holy Days: September 5th–Feast of Trumpets; September 14th–Day of Atonement; September 19th (beginning with opening night on September 18) through the 25th–Feast of Tabernacles; September 26th–Last Great Day. We will be broadcasting services live in the United States from our location in Vail, Colorado. For further information on our Feast sites in Colorado and Germany, please consult our website: www.eternalgod.org. For additional information on our Feast site in Germany, please also go to http://www.aufpostenstehen.de/wir-uber-uns/laubhuttenfest-2013/.
The Momentum of Faith
by Cali Harris
I’ve been away from graduate school—and finishing my thesis and degree—for several years. Recently I wanted to find out what it would take to return to the program.
The odds seemed stacked against me: I’d taken a leave of absence for 3 years, several faculty I’d worked with had since left the university, I was applying after application submissions had closed, the degree requirements had changed, and on and on the list went.
I couldn’t logically figure out how it would all work out.
I took a tiny step: I sent an email to the program director to ask about requirements to return to the program. Little did I know that action would quickly build into some real momentum. In the course of just a few days I had met with faculty, pulled together an application, found professors to recommend me, and enrolled in a class. I wasn’t expecting any of this to happen like it did!
Of course, all of this was only possible through God opening the door. In fact, He opened door after door after door. And the faster I moved forward in faith, it seemed the doors opened more quickly and easily. I’m learning that I have to take those steps of faith to be reminded of just how mightily—and abundantly—God is willing to do His part.
How This Work is Financed
This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
Our activities and literature, including booklets, weekly updates, sermons on CD, and video and audio broadcasts, are provided free of charge. They are made possible by the tithes, offerings and contributions of Church members and others who have elected to support this Work.
While we do not solicit the general public for funds, contributions are gratefully welcomed and are tax-deductible in the U.S. and Canada.
Donations should be sent to the following addresses:
United States: Church of the Eternal God, P.O. Box 270519, San Diego, CA 92198
Canada: Church of God, ACF, Box 1480, Summerland, B.C. V0H 1Z0
United Kingdom: Global Church of God, PO Box 44, MABLETHORPE, LN12 9AN, United Kingdom